Night Out: Wine and…Tacos?

Tonight I had the privilege of attending the summer opening of Mavrik Wine Bar. It’s a well-known fact that I love wine and anything wine bar related. Sadly, I had never been to Mavrik before but, after this introduction, you can bet I will be going back.

Grapefruit + wine + berries is delicious!

Grapefruit + wine + berries is delicious!

This little Queen West haunt is owned by two ladies who did the unthinkable – left their law and investment banking jobs to pursue a passion and open their own restaurant. They differentiate themselves from all other wine bars in a really great way, offering up local wines that are produced in small quantities (read: too small to be found at the LCBO) and a really good selection of fresh, healthy cooking.

A small sampling of Mavrik's menu - awesome tacos and great wine pairings

A small sampling of Mavrik’s menu – awesome tacos and great wine pairings

I got to sample two of their tacos with wine pairings. The first was a Portobello Taco with guacamole, tomatoes, red peppers, black beans, jalapeños, and basil aioli. While I’m not the biggest mushroom fan, this taco had great texture and flavour to it – not too spicy, just tangy enough, with the basil aioli adding a unique taste to otherwise “typical” taco fillings. The second – and my favourite – was the Sweet Potato Taco, filled with sweet potato, black beans, quinoa, parmesan and lemon aioli. This taco was so refreshing, tasty and was fabulously complemented by a Niagara Region Muscat. This was a perfect summer meal.

Portobello Taco (left) and Sweet Potato Taco (right)

Portobello Taco (left) and Sweet Potato Taco (right)

The vibe of the place is great – small and cozy – and, aside from the wonderful and unique food, there is also a healthy selection of cheese (after all, wine + cheese are the best of friends). My only gripe? With the wines being so local and limited in supply, you may fall in love with something that you can’t get your hands on too easily at the LCBO or Wine Rack. I guess that just means you have to return to Mavrik again.

mavrik vibe

Advertisements

Dangerously Cheesy

Via CBC.ca.

Via CBC.ca.

If there’s any food I love as much as bacon, it’s cheese. I absolutely love and adore it – stinky, soft, aged, fondu-ed – any kind will do. One of my favourite warm-weather Friday nights out is sitting on a patio somewhere (at home or at a restaurant), enjoying a glass of wine (white, pinot grigio ideally) and nibbling on a platter of cheese.

In preparation for spring and nights out on the balcony in our new place, I’ve tried to find a formula for the perfect cheese plate. A good cheese plate has a few key components: cheese variety (different flavours, textures and ripeness), fruits (I like apples, pears, and figs but it is all dependent on your cheeses), jam/marmalade/honey (I like honey with any cheese, and a light fruit jam with softer cheeses), and some kind of cracker/bread (the crispier and thinner, the better).

via blogto.com.

via blogto.com.

Toronto has some amazing cheese shops: Alex on Yonge, Global Cheese in Kensington, and Leslieville Cheese Market are among my personal favourites. When it comes to choosing the right cheeses for a plate, I often tend to select about one or two known favourites (a blue cheese, asiago or a sharp cheddar for example) then get a few more new flavours. I also try to have a nice mixture of hard, semi-hard, soft and blue cheeses as well as cheese from different milks (my personal favourite? goats milk, any time). The fruits and marmalade/honey/jam on the side for pairing, is key. I find these touches often bring out the flavour of cheeses in totally new ways. Finally, I like to cut up (thinly!) and toast some fresh baguette, as well as provide one or two store-bought cheese cracker options.

Cheese – like wine – has its experts, flavour profiles, and unique notes that you can learn about over time. If you’re ever looking to learn more (and make your friends happy with delicious cheese servings on balmy nights), here are a few places to go:

A Beautiful Mess’ simply elegant tips for creating a cheese plate

Real Simple Food has a more in-depth view of creating cheese pairings

Huffington Post’s guide to cheese (with video!)

The Kitchn has a great article on pairing wine with cheese

…or, just pair some cheese, wine and bacon bits and call it a wonderful evening!

Happy Hour

Yes, it is Monday and yes, it is only 8am. So while this post may seem a little premature (and maybe even a little concerning), it’s simply in anticipation of this Friday when I will be in Ottawa and likely taking a load off after another long week.

My wine (and, to a degree, cocktail) palate has evolved over the last few years. When I first started drinking wine, I was strictly sweet whites (I basically liked grape juice) but over time, I’ve certainly grown to appreciate the full-body (read: tartness) of a good red. In that time, I’ve also begun to maintain an ongoing stock of wines at home. That’s the mark of a true adult, right?

This Umbra Grape Vine wine rack is a perfect way to inconspicuously keep a few bottles on hand

This Umbra Grape Vine wine rack is a perfect way to inconspicuously keep a few bottles on hand

In thinking about my dream house, I can’t help but imagine a nice little wine fridge. Both mine and my boyfriend’s parents like and collect wine, so it’s only natural we carry on that tradition. While the rack I have today is nice, a sweet fridge would be amazing one day. Houzz has a list of 8 really intricate ways to get your basement transformed into a wine cellar, but, while a nice idea, that just may not be practical. So, here are a few everyday wine storage options I love:

Top L - A great option from Houzz that allows you to highlight your collection without taking up spaceBottom L - A gravity-defying idea for letting your wines shine in plain sightTop R - A Whirlpool wine fridge from Future Shop...stores up to 35 bottles!Bottom R - For that rustic chic look, this reclaimed wood wine rack from DelHutsonDesigns adds a quirky way to not just store wine, but their wine glasses, too!

Top L – A great option from Houzz that allows you to highlight your collection without taking up space
Bottom L – A gravity-defying idea for letting your wines shine in plain sight
Top R – A Whirlpool wine fridge from Future Shop…stores up to 35 bottles!
Bottom R – For that rustic chic look, this reclaimed wood wine rack from DelHutsonDesigns adds a quirky way to not just store wine, but wine glasses, too!

For a few more tips on how to store wine, this article from Wine Spectator gives the key pointers. And when dinner time hits, if you’re looking for something new, here are a few of my favourites:

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc

Mollydooker’s “The Boxer” Shiraz

Campo Viejo Rioja

Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay

Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon

Featherstone Gewurztraminer

Malivoire Pinot Noir

And with that, I hope everyone has a great start to the week!

A Night Out: Bacon! (and wine)

There’s nothing that makes a girls’ night out better than greasy food and/or beer. So last night, my friends and I decided to blend the two in a new part of town. There’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of restaurants that feature one ingredient and we went to a place that happens to focus on my preferred ingredient: bacon! Rashers in Leslieville is a new spot that takes bacon to a whole other level.

Rashers! Bacon!

Rashers! Bacon!

Their whole premise is centered around bacon sandwiches. They have delicious (and pretty local) bacon products, everything from Canadian back bacon to plain ol’ strip bacon. We tried two grilled ones while we were there: one was a delicious grilled cheese with bacon and a slightly tangy mustard, while the other was a grilled maple-apple-bacon combo that tasted almost like dessert rather than dinner (in that it was sweetly delicious).

Simple grilled cheese? Not these sandwiches!

Simple grilled cheese? Not these sandwiches!

They have a small menu with feature sandwiches, including a signature Hogtown Sandwich with peameal bacon and an optional egg on top, which makes this a great place to go for a quick bite after a night out (i.e. greasy breakfast the morning after).

Since Leslieville is an area we have been looking at, I wanted to see what a night out would look like if we were to ever live here. So, after bacon, we headed to Skin and Bones, a new(ish) wine bar on the Queen East strip.

skin and bones

While this didn’t knock my favourite wine bar in the city off its podium (Caren’s Wine Bar – the back patio alone is worth it, especially in the summer), we had a really fun time. The selection of wine and mixed drinks was good and the cheese plate we shared definitely hit the spot. While the wine and cheese was great, it was really the company that made the night. More specifically, the people watching.

There is certainly a unique vibe to the Leslieville area, something you don’t find anywhere else in the city. I’m looking forward to exploring the east end more as the weather gets better – we passed a ton of great restaurants and bars on the way to our final destinations tonight. In the meantime, though, I will just dream of bacon sandwiches…mmm…